22 Feb,2018 By Jagabond
Planning your Azores itinerary can be tricky. The main island of Sao Miguel can easily consume 5-7 days. Should you then start hopping to the other islands? After my experience, I vote yes. I’ll tell my story in slideshow format, recounting my Azores adventure in twenty-one shots from Pico, Faial and Terceira.
1. These bluish-purple flowers grow everywhere on the islands. The hydrangea is the national flower of Azores, and provides a wonderful accent to the long fields of green.
2. Of all the photos I’ve taken, this is my favorite. While driving up Monte Brasil on Terceira, this deer calmly posed for a picture. Was I calm? Not really. Realizing the photo opportunity I had, my hands were shaking. I steadied them just in time.
3. Fishermen and boats from all over frequent the Horta port on Faial, due to the location of Azores at the midpoint of North America and Europe. Visitors paint something at the port symbolizing their presence. From the looks of it, a few ships might’ve had artists as stowaways. Walking around here is like taking a street art tour.
4. The Azores are a collection of volcanic islands. Mount Pico is the largest mountain in the Azores, and last erupted way back in the 18th century.
5. On Pico you can drive up a volcano, and on Terceira you can go inside one. The Algar do Carvao is a lava tube that was opened up for tourism only recently.
6. Speaking of volcanoes, Faial boasts views of a beautiful caldera. The volcano might be long extinct, but the lush flora has prospered.
7. The aforementioned picture of the deer is majestic, while this one is just…natural? Pico must be a hotspot for bovine love.
8. From cows to steak. O Cachalote Restaurante on Terceira is pure bliss for the stomach. Simply take a raw piece of beef and cook to your liking on a smoking lava rock. What an experience.
9. This stunning view is of Horta, capital of Faial. Some guy named Peter opened a pub decades ago that grew in popularity, culminating in a visit by Anthony Bourdain. Peter’s hands are all over the town, with many boat tours operated by a company he owns. All hail King Peter!
10. Pico is the Azorean hub for wine, and the vineyards are unlike most I’ve seen. Volcanic rocks stabilize the plants from strong winds, and the unique soil produces novel flavors.
11. Churches in Azores tend to look eerily similar – mostly white on the outside with blue and white tiles inside. The Se Cathedral was different, mostly due to the strange depictions for the Stations of the Cross. Modern images mix with the biblical story of Jesus’s crucifixion to produce an intriguing result. Does showing a mushroom cloud in church totally kill the spiritual vibe?
12. Who hasn’t tried to capture a religious statue with a ray of sunlight in hopes of yielding a heavenly image? This is my attempt.
13. Back to Pico and the wine culture, these are grapes growing from the terrace of a private residence. While looking for a restaurant, a friendly couple invited us to their home for traditional meats and cheeses. The man also let us sample his homemade liquor. Travel is a great way to experience the kindness of strangers.
14. Angra do Heroismo is the capital of Terceira. It also is the Azorean city that most resembles something you’d see on mainland Portugal. Hilly streets, hip shopping options and cool cafes predominate.
15. Natural water bodies are everywhere across the islands. When driving around, always travel with your swimming gear in case the opportunity arises.
16. If swimming gets boring, try snorkeling. Purchase a cheap snorkel at a beach shop and check out the sea life before it ends up on your plate at the local restaurant.
17. Bull fighting isn’t my favorite sport, but it’s a cultural tradition on Terceira. I wouldn’t attend a match, but I can admire this cool statue of two bulls readying for battle.
18. The Lighthouse of Capelinhos on Faial is another symbol of the volcanic history of the Azores. An enormous eruption in the late 1950s buried the bottom portion in ash, leaving behind what’s seen here.
19. There are few traditional bars in the Azores. One of the best is Cella Bar on Pico. This has a modern feel, vast wine list, and unique menu creations.
20. How do you build houses on volcanic islands? By using volcanic rocks, of course! House designers are lucky that black goes with everything.
21. Like cliff diving? It’s a thing here. Close your eyes and jump…and pray you miss the jagged rocks below. Though I’m trying to conquer my fears one-by-one, I’ll likely never do this.